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Why BYOT should begin in elementary school

Veteran educator Linda M. Ward argues why “bring your own technology” (BYOT) programs should begin at the elementary level

byotIn an effort to make technology more available to students, some school districts are adopting “bring your own technology” (BYOT) programs, in which students and staff are allowed to bring devices from home to use on the schools’ networks for educational use.

Usually, districts adopting BYOT programs initiate them at the high school level and allow them to trickle down to the junior high or middle school level. It is the rare school district that will include its elementary populations in this endeavor.

Younger students’ brains are more malleable and can absorb and retain more information than their older counterparts. It is considered a best practice to introduce students to educational topics as well as life skills at a young age, continuing instruction until mastery is shown.

(Next page: What current studies show about young students’ brains, and how that relates to BYOT)

Current studies done in brain research show “students who are very comfortable with the technology they are using become better at absorbing information, switching tasks, blocking out background noise, and are embracing a new form of literacy that is comparable to previous generations reading books” (Tapscott, 2008). In a  more recent study carried out by Common Sense Media, more than 52 percent of children under the age of eight have access to some type of personal technology device at home.

Why make them wait?

Why not allow elementary-aged students to bring the devices that they are familiar with to school? Why not allow teachers to use best practices to assist elementary students in learning how to use these devices for educational purposes? Why not instill a sense of responsibility and trustworthiness in our elementary students by allowing them to bring their devices from home? Why not allow teachers and parents to come together as a team to teach digital literacy and 21st-century skills to our elementary students?

Why not, indeed? In reading the mission statements of schools from across the country, you will find references to productive, responsible citizens, life-long learners, problem solvers, global citizens, and other lofty ideals for our students. BYOT at the elementary level is one way to fulfill these ideals and create a generation of students ready to face the future.

Linda M. Ward, M.S.Ed., is a veteran educator of 32 years, with the past 25 of them as an elementary teacher-librarian for Millard Public Schools, a Midwest suburban public school district in Omaha, Neb. She is currently working on her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.

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